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Netanyahu to address Congress, Obama refuses to meet him

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday accepted an invitation by US House Speaker John Boehner to address the Congress in March, the Anadolu Agency reported.

In a statement issued by his office, Netanyahu said the invitation "reflects the special friendship between Israel and the U.S., as well as the strong bipartisan support for Israel throughout the US."

"Just last week I discussed with President Obama the common challenges we face from Islamist extremism, including resurgent terrorism and Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons," he continued.

The statement said Netanyahu will arrive in the US in early March and will attend AIPAC's annual conference.

Earlier, the White House criticised Netanyahu's plan to address Congress saying it represents a "departure from the protocol".

White House spokesman Josh Ernest told reporters US officials have reservations about the Israeli premier's visit until they learn about his plans.

"Typically, a foreign leader contacts the leader of the country when he plans to visit," Earnest said, adding that the courtesy is "how President Obama's trips are planned when he travels overseas".

White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement that President Obama will not meet with Netanyahu during his visit to Washington. "As a matter of long-standing practice and principle, we do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections, so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country," she said.

Israeli elections are due to be held on 17 March.

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